The Big Chicken
This is one of the attractions most frequently mentioned by Georgia tipsters, and we’re not exactly sure why. Along a suburban fast food highway northwest of Atlanta, the 56-ft. tall Big Chicken exercises an uncanny command of the region.
It’s not a realistic replica chicken, but an abstraction of signage — huge sheet metal flange, painted bright red, with moving yellow beak.
In 1963, Tubby Davis had the Big Chicken built to advertise his Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake. Its moveable beak, eyes and comb attracted enough attention, like Providence, RI’s giant termite, that it became a popular landmark in directions to city visitors.
Johnny Reb’s eventually went under, replaced when the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain leased the space in 1974 and put its logo about halfway up the bird.
When KFC wanted to build a restaurant in nearby Smyrna, town officials bargained yes, if you build us a big bird, too. KFC decided they would simply move the one from Marietta. Marietta residents were incensed; a populist uprising resulted. The mayors and local politicians got into the act, and the chicken stayed.
In 1996, after extensive tornado damage, Pepsi chipped in to restore the Big Chicken. The new sign, constructed of even sturdier metal to withstand weather extremes, features moving eyes, a beak … and a Pepsi-Cola logo.
The KFC Gift Shop sells Big Chicken souvenirs.
Text © The Roadside America – Photograph © H.J. Ruiz